What do murder, playing cards on Sunday, seining fish, and disturbing religious worship have in common? They were all criminal offenses in the late 1800s in Taney County!
The White River Valley Historical Society has collaborated with Taney County government offices to make indexed images of the county archives available to the public since May, when it was designated by the Commission as the entity to help with preservation of these fragile original records. Since that time, Society volunteers have hand-indexed all Justice Docket books held by the Circuit court for the 1800s, as well as scanned and indexed nearly 1,000 court cases from the era. Civil and criminal files of particular interest to researchers include the coroner’s inquest on the body of “Bald Knobber” leader Nat Kinney, numerous files on the 14 men who were indicted (yet never convicted) for the killing of Deputy George Williams, multiple divorce proceedings, and a wide assortment of other cases, including killing livestock, running a horse on a public highway, seduction, assault and murder.
Also in process of indexing, or recently completed by the WRVHS, are naturalization records, early chiropractor licenses, court minute books, and over 70 one-room school record books.
While the Society is indexing the entire archival collection and scanning all loose documents, the Mountain Complex in Branson is imaging all the ledger books with special equipment designed for that purpose. As these are completed, they are placed on the County’s “Docuware” site, where they are then also indexed by the Society members.
“At the time we began working with the county to preserve these wonderful documents, the commissioners also designated us as the organization to process their historic research requests,” explained WRVHS Managing Director Leslie Wyman. “This gives the researchers an opportunity to work with those of us experienced with local history and genealogy, and allows the county employees to spend more of their time on their other duties. Not only are we seeing more visitors to the Society because of this project, but it’s really been an educational experience for us, particularly on the differences between the court system of today and the late 1800’s. Needless to say, we can hardly wait to see what we find in the remainder of those files before moving on to the early 1900’s!”
“One of the things I love best about projects like this,” Wyman continued, “is the opportunity to work with a number of organizations, businesses, and individuals who realize the importance of preserving our local history. When historic researchers come to us to see the county records, we’re also able to show them some of the photos, school yearbooks, title abstracts, and books in our collection. Once we’ve helped them as much as we can, we try to then refer them to some of the other research facilities located throughout the county. Our goal when we assist researchers is to give them the best experience, countywide, that they can possibly have and make their trip to our area a memorable one.”